Throughout history, libraries have held a sacred status in civilisations around the world, with university and public libraries such as Oxford’s Bodleian, the Vatican Library and the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève venerated to this day. Working on a smaller but often no less impressive scale, private libraries provide a property’s residents with a peaceful temple of knowledge, and can be designed specifically to reflect the owner’s taste in both literature and aesthetics.
While modern public libraries are increasingly utilising technology for both administrative and entertainment purposes, a designated home library often acts as a sanctuary away from digital communication, where you can lose yourself for hours in a forgotten favourite, or expand your horizons by reading a fascinating tome for the very first time. If you have a passion for reading, there’s no better addition to a property than a personalised library.
If you’re starting with a completely blank slate, look to the world’s great libraries for inspiration. The majority of notable public libraries can be divided into one of two categories: classical and modern. In the former, you’ll find rich wood panelling, arched ceilings, ornately carved balconies and traditional ladders sliding along walls of shelves. In the latter, you’ll often find stand-alone shelving, asymmetrical lines, colourful seating and warehouse lighting. The modern aesthetic lends itself well to minimalist and coastal properties, while period homes and townhouses provide the ideal foil for a more historic approach.
The essential elements of a library are lighting, shelving and seating. When possible, prioritise natural light, as this is best for reading and will make the room more welcoming. Carefully consider the placement of all electrical lights in order to ensure they are conveniently arranged for general visibility when browsing, and focused illumination when reading.
The bookshelves should take absolute prominence in the room, with no need for excess furniture or ornamentation. Although the Dewey Decimal system isn’t a necessity, you may wish to spend some time planning your cataloguing method, as strategic placement of your books will save you time later on. If you have limited wall space, you could integrate the design of the shelves into the structure of your home, storing books in the alcove of a staircase or adding a mezzanine balcony to a room with high ceilings. Diagonal or asymmetrical shelves can be designed to fit around any already-installed furniture, providing more space than traditional linear shelving. Keep the colour scheme simple to offset the varied spines of your books. Once you’ve settled on the best way to showcase your collection, pick out comfortable, complementary seating.
Depending on the size of your property, you may wish to incorporate your library into another room of your house. Installing your shelves along an end wall, surrounding windows or French doors with an enviable view, will keep your literature as the primary focal point in the room, while a rolling ladder is both a practical inclusion and a clear hallmark of a library. Complete your literary capsule with a cosy window seat or sofa.
Whether you’re looking for a house with a ready-made library or a property with potential, Engel & Völkers’ international portfolio is certain to contain your ideal new home. Visit us online or in-store to engage our expert help in your search.